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Placement of foremast is a Morgan milestone

MYSTIC — Things are starting to come together for the Charles W. Morgan, the historic whaling ship that has undergone a five year renovation at Mystic Seaport. On Thursday, the 1841 wooden vessel had one of its masts installed, or “stepped” as it’s called in nautical circles.

The new mast, a 68 foot length of Douglas fir, was fitted as the foremast, the first of three masts, according to Quentin Snediker, the director of the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard at the seaport.

The masts and spars were removed as part of the ship’s multimillion dollar renovation that began in 2008.

“We are here to mark another important milestone in the renovation of the Charles W. Morgan and the journey back to sea and her 38th voyage,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport, at a ceremony held alongside the ship. “Stepping a mast is one of those occasions that marks both a new stage in the ship’s construction, or in this case, restoration, and the observance of a maritime tradition. It is tradition to place a coin under the base of a mast to provide good luck.”

White said there was no written record of coins being placed under the masts at the time of the Morgan’s original construction. Never one to break maritime tradition, however, the seaport has chosen three coins, one for each mast. Thursday’s milestone called for a 1941 U.S. walking Liberty silver half-dollar, marking the year the ship arrived in Mystic. An 1841 U.S. Liberty seated silver dollar, commemorating the original launch of the Morgan, will be placed under the main mast, and a 2013 U.S. silver eagle dollar, uncirculated and direct from the U.S. Mint, symbolizing the current restoration, will be placed under the mizzen mast. The second and third masts are expected to be installed around Oct. 31.

“We hope these coins will bring great luck to the Morgan and all who sail her on her 38th voyage and beyond,” White said.

The placing of the 1941 coin was performed by 9-year-old Dylan Conforti from Charlestown, Mass., home of “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy, and the Charlestown Navy Yard. Conforti, the grandson of former Mystic Seaport chairman Bill Cook, is a fourth grader at the Learning Project in Boston.

The coins replace three coins that were removed when the masts were taken out in 2008; a 1908 Barber silver half dollar, an Eisenhower silver dollar dating from 1971-1977 (corrosion made it impossible to read the specific year), and a 1997 U.S. silver dollar. Each coin signified a mast replacement during the Morgan’s career.

Snediker said that since the renovated vessel was launched on July 21, a lot of time has been devoted to the rigging, including fabrication of the the spars and installation of systems related to electrical work, bilge pumps and the generator.

The Morgan’s 38th voyage will begin in late May 2014, when the ship will visit several historic ports to celebrate America’s maritime heritage. After a period of refitting and sea trials, based in New London, the ship will sail to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Boston and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

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